OHM NAMO BHAGVATHE VASUDEVAYA:
THE STORY OF AN INTIMATE FRIENDSHIP:
M P R Nair.
There is a saying that there is nothing in the world that is not n Srimad Bhagavatham. It may be a little exaggeration, but we know it is almost true. It is only true to say that what Sage Vyasa did not write about, does not exist. Amidst that multitude of subjects in Srimad Bhagavatha, there is a very beautiful story of a most intimate friendship between two identical persons of almost same age. They were like maternal twins, of the same age and almost difficult to distinguish one from the other. They were Krishna and Udhava. Uddhava was the closest friend and right-hand of Krishna since childhood. He was Krishna’s cousin, being the son of Devabhaga, who was the brother of Vasudeva, Krishna’s father. Udhava was born at around the same time as Krishna and sent from Mathura to Vrindavan as an infant to be a playmate to Krishna. From then, Uddhava became the most intimate friend and follower of Krishna. Their intimacy began to deepen from the day on which Krishna and Udhava arrived in Mathura, after Krishna’s 14 years of stay in Vrindavan and Gokulam. They went together to Sandeepan’s Ashram at Avantheepuram, for Gurukula studies. Their friendship went on with more and more intimacy, day by day, for more than a century till Krishna had his Divine Ascent (Swargarohana)at the age of almost 125, still both appearing as young as 16. Both of them were in Dwaraka, at that time. Udhava was also a disciple of DevaGuru, Brhaspati, son of Maharshi Angiras, for some time. Some texts show that Udhava has another name as ‘Pavanayadhi’; might be derived from the disciple-hood of Brhaspati, I don’t know how that name came. Very often Udhava was mistaken for Krishna, because of his true similarity.
The whole spiritual world is deeply indebted to Krishna for his two invaluable Gitas. One, the Bhagavat Gita, the crown jewel in Sree Mahabharatha and the other, the Udhava Gita, the crown jewel of Srimad Bhagavatha. Bhagavad Gita is a part of Mahabharata. It is the advice given by Krishna to Arjun on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. It contains the essence of the Vedas and is the most popular of all the Hindu Scriptures. It contains 18 chapters. It is one of the most widely read and revered of the works sacred to the Hindus. It is their chief devotional book, and has been for centuries the principal source of religious inspiration for many thousands of Hindus. It is a dramatic poem, which forms a small part of the larger epic, the Mahabharata. It is included in the sixth book. please see more(Bhismaparvam) of the Mahabaharata and documents one tiny event in a huge epic tale.The Bhagavad Gita tells a story of a moral crisis faced by Arjuna, which is solved through the interaction between Arjuna, a Pandava warrior hesitating before battle, and Krishna, his charioteer and teacher. The Bhagavad Gita relates a brief incident in the main story of a rivalry and eventually a war between two branches of a royal family. In that brief incident – a pause on the battlefield just as the battle is about to begin – Krishna, one chief on one side (also believed to be the Lord incarnate), is presented as responding to the doubts of Arjuna. The poem is the dialogue through which Arjuna’s doubts were resolved by Krishna’s teachings.
Krishna gives nearly a two and half hours’ advice or instructions to Arjuna, standing in the midst of the Armies of Pandavas and Kouravas, coming nearly to 93 lakhs of people, at the Kurukshethra Yudha Bhoomi. In the latter, it was sermonized to Udhava at his private and personal meeting at the Prabhasa Kshethra, where Krishna was alone, preparing for his Divine Ascent (Swargarohana), after the war. Bhagavat Gita contains about 700 verses while Udhava Gita has nearly 1030 verses (to be exact, from verse 40 of Chapter 6, Canto 11 to Chapter 29).The Bhagavad-Gita is the essence of Hinduism. It teaches the non-sectarian universal spiritual philosophy on the metaphysical science of the highest Reality. It gives us the knowledge of the higher Self, and answers to two universal questions: Who am I, and how I can live a happy and peaceful life in this world of dualities. It is a book of wisdom, yoga or spiritual growth that inspired Thoreau, Emerson, Einstein, Gandhi and many others. Whereas Udhava gita is called the farewell message of Lord Krishna, a parting discourse, and is meant for those students who have first thoroughly studied both The Bhagavad-Gita and the Bhagavatham. Bhagavat Gita is kept as a hand-book of Manual for ready reference, by hundreds of thousands of people in India and in some part of the world abroad,irrespective of age, gender, caste, creed or color. Udhava Gita is a saga depicting the unique love and friendship that existed between Uddhava and Krishna. Both put together, paves way to ultimate Brahma Jnana. Our subject today is not either of the Gita; it is only regarding friendship.
For Uddhava, Krishna was his very life-breath and for Krishna, Uddhava was his dearest friend- ‘Atma Mitra’ or ‘Param Sakha’.In Krishna’s own words to Uddhava:
“na thathame priyathama, aathmayonir na sakara:
na cha sankarshano na sreer naivathma cha yatha bhavan.”(Bhagavatam-11-14-15) Meaning, my dear Udhava, neither Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva, Lord Sankarshana, the Goddess of Fortune, nor indeed my own self, are as dear to me as you are.
The following episode happens when Uddhava, sent on a mission by Krishna to Srigaalava Vaasudeva of Karavirapura. He was an impostor king claiming to be the only Lord Vaasudeva (Vishnu) on earth and forcing everybody to worship him. Udhava falls in love with the impostor’s niece Shaibya, a gorgeous young woman thoroughly devoted to her uncle. But Krishna goes and beheads him in front of her eyes and she is enraged at both Krishna and Uddhava. Before all this, Acharya Shvetaketu, the foremost disciple of Saandiipani (guru of Krishna and Uddhava) sees Shaibya near his guru’s Ashram and gets thoroughly infatuated with Shaibya, so much that he even leaves his Ashram to go after her to eventually become impostor Vasudeva’s sidekick, just for her sake. But she keeps waiting for her uncle’s permission to marry him, which never comes. After killing the impostor uncle, Krishna brings Shvetaketu to his senses by persuasion. That is the time when Uddhava also gets infatuated with Shaibya. Krishna was around 21 years old at that time. Invariably, same is the age Udhava too.
That night Krishna felt very concerned about Uddhava. During all the time that they had lived together from the days of their infancy, he had never seen Uddhava so constrained, and so absent-minded, behaving so strangely. Though a man of a few words, he had been open-hearted, quiet, self-effacing, always radiating warmth. With Damaghosha and Balarama, Krishna had travelled in the first chariot; Shaibya and her maids were in the next. The Acharyas followed in other chariots or on foot, while Uddhava, being in charge of the caravan, rode around all the time on the horse-back. At night, however, he came as usual to wherever Krishna happened to be waiting for him and, walking arm in arm or lying side by side as was their wont, they would exchange their impressions of the day. But a little after they began their journey, Krishna had sensed the change, though not clearly at first. As the days went by, a new mood seemed to possess Uddhava, and, during the last two nights, he had purposely kept away from Krishna, invariably avoiding his gaze even during the day-time. Because Krishna had insisted, Uddhava had promised to come that night and had done so. After a short conversation, both retired to sleep. Balarama was already fast asleep, breathing with heavy evenness. But Krishna, who usually went to sleep as soon as he closed his eyes, kept awake, for he found that his friend was tossing uneasily from side to side in his sleep. After some time, he sat up, drew closer to Uddhava and placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder with a gesture of infinite tenderness. Uddhava woke up with a start; Krishna enveloped him in his arms. Udhava hugged him only coldly. ‘Uddhava, I want to talk to you. Come,’ he said.Uddhava got up and followed his friend to a cool place nearby. Udhava was found nervous.’My brother, you have become different these days,’ Krishna said softly.Uddhava startled a little and Krishna noticed it. ‘Do I look different? You are mistaken’ he said with a forced smile. ‘Uddhava, what has come between us? Have I done anything to offend you?’ asked Krishna.’You would never offend me, and whatever you do, I will never take offence. Have you any doubt, Krishna?,’ he asked anxiously.’No, Uddhava. That is why I want to know what troubles you.’ Krishna felt a tremor passing through Uddhava’s frame.’I will try to understand it for you,’ said Krishna. ‘Since we left Karavirapura something has happened to you – something which had not happened to you before.”Nothing has happened to me. I was with you all the time,’ replied Uddhava again with a forced smile. Krishna smiled and said,’That is what I want to know. What happens to you and why, when I am with you? I see you feel a want, a sense of loss, a self-defeat – which you never did before. Tell me, Uddhava. Don’t try to conceal it.’ Krishna pressed Uddhava to his heart. Uddhava hesitatigly told.’If you want to know, I will tell you. I am tired of life. I want to give up this life and return to Badari Ashram,’ he said and paused as he found he was unable to express himself clearly.’Why turn an ascetic? We are here to affirm life, to rise above it, not to deny it,’ said Krishna.’You can do so, for you are a god. You are born to dominate life,’ said Uddhava helplessly. ‘I am not.’ ‘Life was meant to be lived. Even the venerable Parashurama said so. And both of us have lived it well so far,’ said Krishna.’I have no desire to live well, Krishna. Don’t make me more unhappy by having to confess it. I have made up my mind,’ said Uddhava, his eyes full of a silent pathetic appeal to Krishna not to probe into his heart any further.’Brother, you can’t be unhappy just because I want you to share your unhappiness with me,’ Krishna suddenly stood up and gathered Uddhava to his breast as a thought struck him. ‘Have you become infatuated with Shaibya?’ he asked.Uddhava hid his face on Krishna’s breast. ‘Krishna, don’t ask me.”I have gone mad. I have sinned. I have been untrue to you’. Krishna, finding his pathetic situation, comfoted Udhava with kind and loving words and advised him phylosophically. Their intimacy incresed double fold.
The next day Krishna asked him a for a favor. He asked Uddhava to visit Vrindavan, where Krishna’s soul mate Radha resided, and to give her a message. Uddhava gladly agreed. After all, getting to do a special assignment for no one else but Krishna, the divine one, was an honor. When he was ready to leave, Krishna smiled and waved him goodbye. Uddhava asked about the message and Krishna said he had none. Uddhava was surprised. He sat in chariot and started on his way, but he could not help wonder what would be Radha’s reaction. He was sure Radha would be very angry at this. He did not want to see a problem in Radha and Krishna’s relationship. So just before he entered Vrindavan, he got a parch-paper and wrote a hi-hello message to Radha and forged to look like it came from Krishna.
On reaching Vrindavan, he did not have problem finding Radha’s house. She gave him a warm welcome. After he settled, he handed over the message, hoping she would not examine the message in too much detail. For a moment Radha stared at the parch-paper and then she started laughing hysterically. Uddhava was confused. He asked Radha what was the matter. She said the message Krishna wrote was funny. Uddhava pretended surprise and asked what was the message. “The message says Uddhava’s study is still not complete.” replied Radha.On listening this, Uddava was stunned.‘How could she have known this?’ he wondered. Radha calmed him down.“I love Krishna and trust Krishna in ways beyond you can imagine.” She said “We are two bodies but same soul. There is nothing to be said in between us. We have walked the path of trust, love, devotion and sacrifices for so long that there are no boundaries in my being and his. He does not need to send me messages. He is my message. He is my love letter from the universe.”“But Uddhava, you have not learned to trust Krishna. You have not learned to give up your self, your ego, and stop your manipulating mind. You ego stands between you and the truth. Between you and the supreme awakening.”
“Erasing the sense of duality and being one with the universe, being one with the one who beholds universe, is this not the jist of the sacred ancient texts, Uddhava?”
Uddhava was speechless. Within a minute, Radha had explained the the deepest mysteries of life. He just wanted to stand there and listen.He spent the whole day at her house. She talked about life in layman’s terms of love and truth. But Uddhava found answers to his most profound questions in philosophies he learned all this life.Radha’s answers turned all of Uddhavas learning upside down and inside out and presented to him as a paradox, a paradox his doubting mind could never grasp. Uddhava’s ego surrendered. The constant chatter of thoughts at the back of his mind stopped and he saw a totally new world at the same place. An eternal, peaceful world where everything seemed OK.On reaching Dwaraka,Krishna smiled and said “So let’s talk about your title Maha-rishi.”“I am not that interested in the title anymore. ” replied Uddhava and bent to touch Krishna’s feet. Krishna rose from his throne. He hold on to Uddhava’s shoulders and smiled at him. ”Your journey is complete. You have arrived. Uddhava, I bestow you the responsibility of writing down my teaching in simple language for all those who do not have luxury of spending their life trying to be Maha-rishi. You will share the gems of knowledge that do not belong to any title such as Maha-rishi. “And for this great contribution to humanity, hereafter you shall be known as Maha-rishi.”
There in the end, as advised by Krishna, Udhava went to Badari Ashrama and spent the rest of his life in spreading and glorifying the name of his Atma-Thozhan.
His most important request to Krishna was:
“soham mamahamiti mooddamathir vigadda-
sthwanmayaya virachithathmani sanubandhe,
thathwanjasa nigaditham bhavathayathaham
sumsadhayami bhagavannanushadhi bhrthyam”(Bhgavatam-11-7-16)
Meaning, O my Lord, since my consciousness is merged in the material body and bodily relations, by Your illusory energy(Yoga Maya),I am thinking, “I am this body, and all of these relatives are mine.” Therefore, my Lord, please teach me,Your poor servant, how I can very easily carry out Your instructions to become detached from worldly affairs (sarvasanga parithyagi), and to attain Jeevan-mukthi.
Lord Krishna is the Supreme Being, mercy incarnate. The awesome personality of Sri Krishna even after playing down his Superhuman magics, is really wonderful and extremely strange to understand and analyze by anyone.
Dt: Thursday, 3rd February 2011.
God bless America.
OHM NAMO BHAGVATHE VASUDEVAYA: